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Higgins. He had blond hair, and was proud of his classic nose
from a Grecian statue. This handsome exterior contained a
repulsive personality who had only one topic of conversation:
how Communism would save the world, and would be taking
over UK after its success in Eastern Europe. So of course, the
rest of us continued our teen age interests in cars, girls, pop
music and getting old enough to have a beer ... and tried to
But after one of these trips to the migrant camp and hearing
harrowing personal tales from some of the Hungarians, I asked
if Communist Hungary is so wonderful, why have so many
escaped this paradise to live in sheds just outside Birmingham,
of all places ?
I mentioned conversations with some of the refugees about
Communist brutality and the failure of the system to deliver
basic consumer goods or even feed its own people. He took a
notebook from the top pocket of his sports jacket (he was not
going to wear the bourgeoisie school blazer and tie the other
800 kids wore.)
“ What are their names? ” he demanded.
Well, what would you have done?
I’m afraid I did not stop to think either. Except that there
was a possibility that our virulent Commie might actually report
back and the families of escapees could be at risk.
So I hit him.
I hammered my right fist as hard as I could right into his
precious god dammed classic nose with enough sideways
force which I hope would break it. I don’t know if it did, (he
wore a plaster for a week and never spoke to me as long as he
remained in school), but there was a satisfying howl of pain and
a magnificent eruption of blood all over his face and proletariat
jacket. The cry brought a group school mates running who
were definitely not Communist sympathisers, so the expected
retaliation did not happen. However, I did receive instruction
from some of the lads from the rougher end of town on which
part of the fist to use next time.
Unfortunately, this was just before the School Certificate
Examinations. I had used the heel of my right hand to smite a
blow for freedom and Western values. It swelled up and was so
painful I could barely write. My exam papers were submitted in
handwriting that looked like the dying wanderings of a spider
that had climbed out of the inkwell. I was lucky to get any passes.
It was just over ten years later when I was packing up the
plywood sailing dinghy I kept on a lake in East Africa. I had
all the gear and sails in the car and went back to remove the
outboard motor and drag the dinghy to the shady tree where
it was secured.
But somebody had beaten me to it.
There were three African youths; the larger one had hoisted
my outboard off the transom. At first, I thought he was being
helpful then I saw the expression on his face.
For nearly a decade, I loved living among the African people
and enjoyed working with them building projects to develop
tourism out in remote areas of the bush. I tried to learn their
language and help them with their English. (The young barefoot
schoolboy clerk who so thoroughly administered our cement
supplies became the manager of the largest hotel on the East
African coast.) But as in any society, there is a small percentage
of crooks, thieves and villains. In my day, they generally formed
the Government. This lad was clearly a finance minister in the
When I asked him to put it down, he responded with a
sneering “You won’t do anything!”
In a millisecond, the Hungarian Lesson was in my mind
plus a scene from Howard Hawk’s 1952 The Big Sky movie which
Jack had shown to the refugees. In it, grizzled old timer Arthur
Hunnicutt demonstrated the improved dynamics of punching
somebody’s lights out while clenching a fist full of lead shot.
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